Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has written a bill removing the felony designation when someone intentionally has unprotected sex with someone without their knowledge. He says he wants to destigmatize HIV. How does he plan to do that? This bill certainly won’t. In fact it will probably backfire big time. If you have HIV or AIDS, you now don’t have to worry about a long prison stretch for giving your disease to others. The bill has passed the House and now will go to the Senate where it is expected to sail through.
In a test of shifting attitudes about HIV, a group of state lawmakers has proposed that it no longer be a felony for someone to knowingly expose others to the disease by engaging in unprotected sex and not telling the partner about the infection.
The measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and others would make such acts a misdemeanor, a proposal that has sparked opposition from Republican lawmakers.
The same downgrade in crime level would apply to people who donate blood or semen without telling the blood or semen bank that they have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, or have tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the precursor to AIDS.
“HIV-related stigma is one of our main obstacles to reducing and ultimately eliminating infections,” Wiener said. “When you criminalize HIV or stigmatize people who have HIV it encourages people not to get tested, to stay in the shadows, not to be open about their status, not to seek treatment.”
Currently, those convicted of felonies can be sentenced up to seven years in prison.
Between 1988 and June 2014, there were 357 convictions in California for an HIV-specific felony that would have been downgraded by SB 239, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.